Great Wall of China

I want to tell you about Joanna Grace.  That is not her real name, at least not yet. Her real name is… No, that’s not important because that is part of who she was. What is important to us is who she is becoming.

Our daughter and son-in-law are in the final days of adopting a 3 year old from China. It has been a long, frustrating process for them, but in just a few days we will welcome our newest grandchild, Joanna Grace. I am sure that little girl has no comprehension of what will become hers in a few days with a new name and a new inheritance.

I have been adopted into the family of God. Therefore I have the rights and privileges of a son, just like Jesus. The intimacy that was broken by Adam’s sin has been restored through the blood of Jesus. Just as Joanna lived the first three years of her life with no knowledge of my daughter’s family, so I had lived my life apart from Christ. But now I have been adopted into a new family with the rights and privileges that come with that adoption.

Just as Joanna did not seek out my daughter’s family, I did not first come to God seeking salvation. He first sought me out offering it to me. I may not be the choice of the world but I am the choice of God. When someone asks me who I am, I can say, “I’m one of the chosen.” “Oh, chosen by whom?” “God.” “Really, when?” “Forever.” “Why?” “It had nothing to do with me. There was no me when God decided it.” I am temporarily living in the earth but I am a citizen of heaven.

Ephesians 1:3-8 (NLT) – “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.” Let’s take a quick look at some of the key spiritual blessings referenced in this passage:

  • Chosen: My daughter looked through hundreds of profiles from dozens of countries before choosing Joanna. God had you and me in mind since before the creation of the world. No one is a mistake or an accident, despite what someone might have said. My mom was 42 when I was born. A surprise, yes, but not a mistake. It doesn’t matter what a miserable life we may have had: rejected by family, abandoned by loved ones, betrayed by friends. In Christ each of us is chosen.
  • Adopted: I have been brought into a new family with its rights and privileges. Through adoption, I am a son of God. This is not a relationship of “Oh, Heavenly Father, high above the earth in unapproachable light!” but it allows me to cry out “Daddy!” and run into His arms. That is the meaning of “Abba” in Romans 8:15b (NLT): “You received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father.’”. Let’s not pass by that statement without thinking about it. To the first century reader it was a radical concept. God had never been addressed in such a personal way.
  • Grace: One of the translations of the Greek word for grace is empowerment. In Christ, I am empowered to live a new life, empowered to break the bondage of sin and empowered to impact those around me with the Gospel.
  • Purchased: Other translations use the word redeemed. That means bought out of slavery to sin and given freedom through Jesus’ blood. When my future was the hopelessness of death and damnation, God picked me up and set my feet on a new course.
  • Forgiven: Jesus took upon Himself the punishment for my sin so that I can stand before the Father holy and without fault. In other words, righteous. Because of His sacrifice in my place, I am forgiven.

2Corinthians 5:17 declares that I am a new creation. What do I receive as a new creation?

  • A new name. In Biblical times great emphasis was placed on the meaning of a name. Hosea named his children as a means of prophesying against Israel. He named one Lo-Ruhamah (which means “not loved”); the next he named Lo-Ammi (which means “not my people”). Just as Joanna received a new name so also Revelations 2:17 promises those who are victorious will receive a new name. “I don’t feel very victorious.” The Bible tells me that in Christ I am victorious. (Romans 8:37(NIV)) The walk of faith means I believe the promises of God regardless of my feelings.
  • A new family. Colossians 1:13 (NLT) tells us, “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.” Just as Joanna is being brought into a new family, in Christ, I too have a new family in a new kingdom. I am no longer in bondage to the bitterness and defeat of the past but I now come to the Father as my daddy. Who I was before is gone, wiped out.
  • A new inheritance. Romans 8:17a (NLT) promises, “And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory.” Joanna is entitled to an equal inheritance with her new brothers and sister.  I may not receive a great inheritance of money or land, but my inheritance as a joint heir with Christ is untouchable, unchanging, and inexhaustible.
  • A new destiny. I once was destined for hell. My destiny now is heaven. Ahead of Joanna lies opportunities that could not be imagined in a remote Chinese orphanage. I can get far too focused on the here and now and lose an eternal perspective. Life comes with trials. “We must pass through many troubles to enter the Kingdom of God,” (Acts 14:22 GNT)  Endurance is based on perspective. If I focus on just today, I can become discouraged and defeated. An eternal perspective reminds me that the present troubles fade in the view of heaven.

Has Joanna’s past left scars? Certainly, and they will take time to heal: scars of loneliness, rejection and hopelessness. The promised land was a land of rest where God promised His people would receive “large and beautiful cities which you did not build, houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant”. (Deuteronomy 6:10–11 (NKJV)) but the scars of their life as slaves kept them from having the faith they needed to enter.  I have a new destiny, a new relationship with my Heavenly Father and the family of God. I can choose to enter or, like the Israelites, wander in a wilderness of despair and hopelessness. “Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.” (Hebrews 4:11 NIV)

My heart breaks for the thousands upon thousands in orphanages around the world, many in abject poverty and deprivation. The problem is overwhelming but the life of one little girl will be changed forever because our daughter is willing to make a tangible sacrifice. There is a story of a little boy who came across thousands of starfish washed up on the beach. He began throwing them back into the water when an old man came by. The old man said, “Look at all those starfish. Do you really think you can make a difference?” The little boy picked up a starfish and said as he threw it into the water, “I can make a difference for this one.” Where can I make a difference today? I may not be able to impact the world but I can impact one life.

Let me tell you, my daughter has become an amazing mom. I know of no one more dedicated or self-sacrificing: home schooling four kids, laundry, meals, ball games and practices, constant demands and constant stress. And she always does all this with a cheerful attitude? Well, I said she was amazing, not perfect. God isn’t looking for perfection; He is looking for growth. At the end of the day, can I say I’ve grown closer to God that day? Has it been a day of progress or retreat? Have I pressed toward the goal of His high calling?

Hebrews 12:2 describes a great cloud of witnesses that is cheering me on in my earthly race. That is my family, not just my mother or father, but the family of God, the one I was adopted into when I made Jesus Lord of my life. That place is secure.

“The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, which shines ever brighter until the full light of day.” (Proverbs 4:18 NLT) Joanna is beginning a new path. I too am challenged to continue my pilgrimage through this life fulfilling God’s purposes and drawing closer to Him each day, knowing that I am a son of God, a joint

Bloodline of a Champion

Did you have a pet growing up? I remember Butch, half German shepherd, half whatever climbed over the fence one night, but he was a great dog for a boy growing up. He would wrestle, swim and fetch. Our daughter’s family has Edgar, a pug. He is unbelievably ugly, still he is a purebred, and therefore expensive.

I was speaking with a friend recently and he related an experience he had as a young man. He had worked at a ranch one summer and as the summer was drawing to a close, the owners told him they might not have the cash to pay him but instead were considering giving him a colt that had recently been born. He thought, “What am I going to do with a horse?” He was relieved when they were able to come up with the cash instead, but he came back to the ranch a couple of years later and learned the colt they were going to give him was now was worth over $1 million. Why? He was in the bloodline of a champion.

In Numbers 13, the Israelites sent twelve spies into the Promised Land. Ten of the spies forgot God’s covenant; they forgot their bloodline. Joshua and Caleb kept focus. They were ready to follow God to victory. Christ died once for all. In doing so He established a new covenant. Hebrews 10:4 explains that all other sacrifices fall short, only the blood of Jesus can take away sin. Colossians 1:13 promises the God “delivered Gill out of the power of darkness, and translated him into the kingdom of the Son of His love.” My life is different because of what Jesus did. 1Peter 2:9 says, “Gill is a member of a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that Gill may show forth the excellencies of Him who called him out of darkness into His marvelous light.” Does that sound like we are second class citizens?

We give the devil far too much credit. Our biggest battle is not outside but rather on the inside; it is the battle for our mind. Remember, the devil was defeated 2,000 years ago. It is not the devil’s goal to get me to sin. I will just repent and get back on track. Rather he wants to change the way I think. If he can control my thoughts, he can control my destiny. You see thoughts produce actions. Actions form habits. Habits establish character. Character determines destiny.

Phil 4:6-7 tells us, “Gill is not to be anxious in anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, Gill is to let his requests be made known to God. The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard Gill’s heart and thoughts in Christ Jesus.” God’s peace comes as I allow His Word to direct my thoughts. 2Corinthians 5:17 promises that the old has passed away. I can live in the victory of a life made new. I am in the line of a champion.
1Peter 1:18-19 tells us we were redeemed by the blood. Today that has become little more than a religious cliché but to Paul’s readers it meant much more. Redeemed was a term from the slave market. They knew it meant rescued from a life of misery and certain death and set free to live the life God meant for them.

According to Revelations 12:10, the devil is the accuser. What about God? We are told in Romans 8:33-34, “Who could bring a charge against Gill, because he is one of God’s elect? It is God who justifies Gill. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and more than that was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God and makes intercession for Gill.” Because of Jesus’s blood, we are free from condemnation. Colossians 1:19-20 tells us we have peace through the blood. When I need peace, I need to remember the blood. Rev. 12:1 says, “They overcame by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony.” We need both parts: what Jesus did on the cross and what we do by our words.

Being in the bloodline does not guarantee a champion. We must grow into a champion.
Whether it be in sports, apprentice for a trade or any skill, we must be trained and practice. It is the process of Tell/Show/ Do. We recently hired a new employee and had to take her through an extensive training process to learn all of the details of our business.
1. Tell – Training starts by telling the person what is expected, what must be done. In our spiritual walk, the Bible is our training manual. Hebrews 4:12 tells us, “The word of God is living, active and sharper than any two-edged sword.” God provides the direction and wisdom that we need.
2. Show – After telling what is needed, we need to demonstrate the actions. We need pastors, leaders and godly friends in our lives to live out the Christian walk for us to follow. In 1Corinthians 13:1 Paul makes a remarkable declaration, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” He understood the need for not just preaching the Gospel, but also living it out in front of those he taught.
3. Do – Before a new skill is really ours, we must practice, we must “do it”. That means incorporating it into daily living. Daily living Philippians 4:9 says, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
4. Coach – The final step is we need correction and accountability. In Matthew 28:19, Jesus instructs us to ‘make disciples’. He isn’t just looking for numbers; He wants dedicated followers who are learning and growing. We must be teachable as well as accountable not only to God but to whomever He establishes over us.

To reach a goal takes focus. I recently read “No Easy Day” about Seal Team 6 and the killing of Osama ben Laden. That operation took planning, training, and focus. What I focus on becomes magnified in my life. If I focus on the negative, it will get bigger. If I focus on God’s blessings, they will be also be magnified.

Did you know that I can foretell the future? There is nothing magical about it. If you don’t change, if you don’t focus, your future will look a lot like your past. The important question is does that give you a warm, contented feeling or does it strike terror?

Where should I have my focus?
1. Focus on Christ: Heb 12:2 commands us to “look unto Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. If I focus on sin, it gets bigger, if I focus on Jesus, He gets bigger.
2. Focus on others: Luke 19:10 tells us Jesus came to seek and save the lost. If my focus is on me, “I want, I need, I feel”, how can I be a positive influence in the world?
3. Focus on the power of God: When David faced Goliath, he needed that focus. In the natural, he would have said, “Who am I kidding? This rock isn’t big enough!” (1Sam 17) But he knew it wasn’t about his slingshot but the power of God working in and through him.

Let me leave you today with one last Scripture. The doormat in front of our house proclaims Joshua 24:15: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” When you were born again, you were born into a new bloodline, that of a champion. Are you going to live like the world and become a plow horse or will you choose to serve the Lord, live by His leading and experience His victory?